Musings on individual records in a team game

I read an interesting article by former England captain Mike Brealey that was published on the weekend. He was mostly talking about Andrew Strauss’ philosophy on declarations, but he had some remarks about Mahela Jayawadene’s attempt to get the world batting record as well.

Meanwhile, 6,000 miles to the south east we have the spectacle of Sri Lanka batting on to a lead of 587 in the hope of a world record individual Test score for Mahela Jayawardene against South Africa at Colombo. Fortunately, he did not get it.

What has happened to the team game when several pointless hours are pressed into the service of individual glory and local prestige? I think a narcissistic attitude is fed by pressures from the social network. Jayawardene’s quest for personal glory at the possible expense of the team must have been amplified by nationalistic excitement. He was carrying the projections of a nation. Not only had Sri Lanka just seen their heroes compile a world record partnership (624, overtaking the previous best by their compatriots Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama’s 576, also in Colombo, in 1997), they had the chance of this other record.

I hope I am not being too puritanical, or too carping, here. Certainly personal landmarks are important. Strauss would have been foolish and heartless to have declared before Bell got to a hundred, especially when he was furthering England’s cause so admirably. And if England had had wickets in hand, perhaps there would have been more of a case for batting on into Saturday.

I think there is a fair case for having an extra world-record holder in your side. I have to say that I think Brealey IS being a tad too puritanical on this score. For a country like Sri Lanka, which doesn’t have life so easy in its day to day business, what with tsunamis and civil wars, a bit of nationalistic excitement about the cricket is a positive, not a negative.